IS MASS above or below? How is Mary getting on since her operation? What is on in the hall tonight? What time is the funeral? There is only one seven digit number you need to remember for the answer to all of these questions, and many more, if you live in the village of Cooraclare or surrounding areas – the telephone number of the local post office.
Central to that service with postmistress Geraldine Donnellan is former postmistress and now part-time employee, Moira Garry.
Moira literally eats, prays and loves Cooraclare.
The post office is situated in her home and, as such, she remains central to the goings-on in the busy village, but her connection to the village and its people is deeper than just geography.
She was born Moira Kelly in the townland of Clonreddan, just outside the village, and grew up on a small farm.
It was in that small village that she would also meet her beloved Michael, a neighbour she knew “since he could walk”.
“The romance started in the local drama group many years later,” she said, recalling happy memories with her late husband.
The young couple moved to the post office in Cooraclare after Moira’s aunt retired as postmistress and began a life that would place them central to the community, as well as their five children’s lives.
“We got married in 1967, the fourth of September, and we had 36 lovely years together. He was a thorough gentleman, everyone around here would tell you that,” Moira remembers fondly her husband, who passed away suddenly on St Patrick’s Day in 2004.
His memory also lives on in a fundraising cycle that has raised more than €161,800 over the last 10 years for a Clare-based charity. Michael was happy to help people and his name continues to do that even now.
Moira’s precious memories with her family are central to life in Cooraclare.
Work didn’t necessarily stop for the couple when the post office closed or the general shop door closed at night, as a knock at the door would bring them back to serve another customer or neighbour.
The telephone exchange eventually brought the working day around the clock for the Garry family.
“We used to have a bell outside the door and Michael would get up at night. The month of August was the worst when the Americans would be at home.
“When they would go home from the pub at one, two or half past two, they would start ringing the friends back home.
“Michael would come down to put them through and make a cup of tea.
“He might have the tea just drank when they would ring off again and then maybe another one of them would decide to call Auntie Pat. Or, if there was no reply when they rang the first time, after half an hour they would try again. He was often up several hours in the night,’ she said with a sympathetic smile.
Even as the exchange became obsolete, the Garry home and post office remained central to local information.
“I’ll tell you a funny one. Back about 10, maybe more, years ago, our churches – we have two churches, St Mary’s in Cree and St Senan’s in Cooraclare – and we had evening Mass going in the two churches but that was stopped with the change in the churches.
“Then there was evening Mass in one church and morning Mass at the weekend in the other. And I’d get several calls ‘Moira, is Mass above or below tonight?’ Cree is up the road.”
Families also continue to ring Moira to inform her of the progress of an ill relative so that others have somewhere central to inquire.
There is little going on locally that Moira does not know about or is not involved with, from community groups to missionary support work.
This mother and grandmother is as energetic as the busy post office.
She is involved in missionary work, particularly supporting former Cooraclare natives who are now working abroad in missions in troubled, developing and often-dangerous countries.
A member of the parish council, she provides more than Mass times, as she is a Minister of the Eucharist and regular reader at Mass.
And while Moira keeps an active interest in most committees and organisations locally, she is quick to praise the work of the people who developed the Community Hall, playground and those that work on the Tidy Towns and local development committees.
The hall is a particular achievement locally as it is used a lot by various groups in the busy community from bingo to speech and drama and from apostolic to the drama group.
The playground holds a special place in Moira’s heart as it has many precious memories for her.
“The ground is where the old school I went to stood. Afterwards, I did my dancing there and my courting from the hall,” she said.
She is proud of her village and its people.
“There is a great community here. When Michael died, I felt the love and support of the parish. I felt everyone wanted to do something to ease the pain,” she said.
Although Moira is 100 per cent Cooraclare, she likes to leave it behind to travel.
Last weekend, one of her ventures took her to Dublin for a trip that included a skyscraper walk of the perimeter of Croke Park.
When it comes to travelling, she has scaled greater heights than this, and will continue to do so.
Her travels have taken in trips to see her eldest son Declan in Australia, to New Zealand, England and America but she always returns home to the hub of Cooraclare.
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